The Flood of 1935 -- Victims more than just a list of names

Friday, May 29, 2015
The home of the Rev. Thomas Bragg, Cambridge, Nebraska, after the 1935 Republican River flood. It's thought that the Rev. Bragg died of a heart attack as he tried to save his handicapped wife from the rising water. Nettie Bragg told her rescuers that her husband abruptly said, "I think we have to go!" and he fell into the water. His body wasn't found until about four years later, when Bee James of Culbertson woke from a vivid dream that revealed to him where the reverend's body would be found. According to "The 1935 Republican River Flood" by Joy Hayden, James dug in the area shown in his dream and within minutes, he found Rev. Bragg's skull. Positive identification was confirmed by the reverend's dental work and by his watch found in the same area. The watch had stopped at 6:45 p.m. (Clinton Johns, Cambridge, via National Weather Service)

OXFORD, Neb. -- Nancy Knuth of Oxford, Nebraska, has a list of names ... the names of people who lost their lives 80 years ago May 30 and 31, and into June in the 1935 Republican River Flood.

But this is more than a list of up to 120 or so names.

"This is not just a list of dead people," Nancy said. "They are real people who lived, whose families loved them and missed them when they were gone."

Nancy said these are people whose lives and whose families' lives were changed forever by the flood.

Nancy grew up in Oxford, listening to stories of horrific loss caused by the flood. Oxford lost 11 residents.

Nancy's father helped build sandbag walls against advancing flood waters. "He went into the water that night to help a family," Nancy said.

Downriver from Oxford, the community of Orleans lost 21. The number of losses there are so high, historians believe, because the high water hit the community in the middle of the night.

Upriver, Benkelman lost 19 (or 25, according to some records), because it was hit by the early waves of roaring water and floating debris, also through the early morning hours. Rainfall of up to 24 inches falling in the corner of Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska glutted the normally calm river.

Before the 75th anniversary of the flood, in 2010, Nancy started her research into the flood with a list of flood victims provided by a classmate, Bob Mitchell of Edison. "It was a record of the deceased from each town," Nancy said. "It wasn't a perfect list," so she went looking for the names of more victims.

Nancy used Mitchell's list and her more complete list to help her design vinyl banners to mark the graves of flood victims in cemeteries along the flood's path.

It appears the list may still not be complete, because, reading through and comparing victim lists in four books on the flood, even more victims (some without names) appear.

The books are: "The 1935 Republican River Flood," by Joy Hayden, available in McCook at New Life Christian Book Store; "Bluff-to-Bluff" and "Bluff-to-Bluff, Too!," by Marlene Harvey Wilmot, available at the Museum of the High Plains in McCook; and "Swept Away," by Mary L. Sherk, available at the Massacre Canyon Visitors Center east of Trenton.


The Victims

The most recent list of flood victims includes, by town as the raging water moved downriver, and their family relations, ages and burial sites, if known:

SEIBERT, COLORADO, 3 victims: Wayne and Mrs. Wayne Gesner, each 27 years old; Clarence L. Lothian, 60.

HALE, COLORADO, 3 victims: husband and wife, Josiah Harding, 40-50, and Harriet, 45, and son, Rodney, 13.

ST. FRANCIS, KANSAS, 2 victims: Betty Jane Mosier, 6; Kathryn Mosier, age unknown.

PARKS, 1 victim: Lois Burke, 4 years old.

BENKELMAN, (historic records are uncertain as to the exact number of victims ((24 or 25?)): Mrs. Harvey Barnhart, age 45 (possibly of St. Francis?); Peter Courtright, age 15; Ora Davis, 52-60; Art Duvall, also known as "Dog Shorty," 62, Benkelman Cemetery; the Faylor family, Bert, 48, Jennie Faylor, 45, Bert Jr. "Bud," 18, and Merna, 14; Mrs. Robert Harrison, age unknown; Joanna Osborne, 70; the Pettit family, all buried in the Benkelman Cemetery, James Robbin., 52, and Mary Isabelle, 45, Adolph Thomas, 4, Lee Wayne 7, Laveta Alice, 9, James Wilbur, 11, Albert Warren, 14, and Edward Walter, 18; Mena (Myrna) Workman; John Sandgran; and some records indicate "George Taylor and his family of four" (does that mean four victims in total, or five, with George?).

STRATTON, 3 victims: Ethel Mae Black, 18; Mrs. Myrtle (Alva) Stonecipher, 46, and Mildred Ellen Stonecipher, 14.

TRENTON, 9 victims: Edwin C Colven, 47, and George R. Colven, 7, McCook Cemetery; Owen, 78, and Mrs. Owen Murtha, 76; Howard, 30, and Mrs. Howard Smith, 26; James, 69, and Mrs. James Thomas, 32; Spencer Thomas, 32..

CULBERTSON, 6 victims: The Wallace family, ages unknown, Bernard "Red" J. and Delores Wallace, and their children, Bernice, Lorraine (or Lorrane), Martha Jean and Virginia, Riverview Cemetery in McCook.

PERRY -- Tornado victims: Mrs. Franz Zander, Delbert and Franz Zander Jr.; Evelyn Rose Stratton, one week old; Pauline Rhodes, two years old, of Miller; Mrs. John Schmidt of Curtis; Mrs. H. Dinges.

McCOOK, 11 victims: Glenn Claude Bell, Memorial Park Cemetery; Fred McIlvaine; mother Frances Maude Miller, 27, and her children, Charles Frances, 9, Virginia May, 4, Claudine, 3, and Beverly Jean, 1; Mrs. Miller's sister, Elizabeth Shook of Imperial, Memorial Park Cemetery; Fred Sullivan; Godfrey Swanson, Memorial Park Cemetery; unknown girl, about 4.

CAMBRIDGE, 3 victims: the Rev. Thomas Bragg, 60, Arapahoe Cemetery; Kenneth Moseley, 3, Fairview Cemetery, Cambridge; George H. Sayer, 65, St. John's Cemetery, Cambridge.

ARAPAHOE, 6 victims: Dessie Andrews, 50-60; Will B. Andrews, 50-60; George Henry Hays Jr., 30; Edward Albert Kirwan, 19, Elwood Cemetery; Ray Kirwan, 44, Elwood Cemetery; John Misterek, 50, Elwood Cemetery.

EDISON, 4 victims: Ralph Blauvelt, 22, Edison Cemetery; Virginia Blauvelt, 11, Edison Cemetery; John Jr., 46, and Mrs. John DeVries 40, Edison Cemetery.

OXFORD, 11 victims: Carl Dee Anderson, 9, Oxford Cemetery; Glenn M. Anderson of Holdrege, 39, Prairie Home Cemetery, Holdrege; Leona Anderson, 36, Oxford Cemetery; Dorothy Fuchs, 32, Oxford Cemetery; Martha E. Fuchs, 68, Oxford Cemetery; Mary Jane Blauvelt Fuchs, 29, Edison Cemetery; Willis Lou Fuchs, 7, Oxford Cemetery; Emma Lindstrom Mills, 34, Highland-Union Cemetery, Gosper County; James Lee Mills, 6, Highland-Union Cemetery, Gosper County; Chester Schultz, 18, Oxford Cemetery; Rena Devries (Huff) Schultz, 43, Oxford Cemetery.

ORLEANS, 22 victims: Earl Anderson; Ray Bickford of Beaver City, 44, Mount Hope Cemetery, Beaver City; Minnie Dake, 48, Orleans Cemetery; Francis Rueben Delimont, 27, Orleans Cemetery; Carrie E Lacey, 50, Orleans Cemetery; William E. Lacey, 57, Orleans Cemetery; Mart Madison; Martran Modsos, 35-40; Dorothy Neumeyer, 5, George Neumeyer, 3, Henry Neumeyer, 5, Irene M. Neumeyer, 22, Orleans Cemetery; Fred Norstrum from Carter, 47, Carter Cemetery; Billie Pat Stevens, 5, and Jacquline Lee Stevens, 7, Kearney Cemetery; Emma Olson Stevens, 58-60, Orleans Cemetery; Mary Stevens, 88; William Stevens, 60, Orleans Cemetery; Elvira Schachtler, 33, Upland Cemetery, Upland, Nebraska; Lester Schachtler, 24, Upland Cemetery, Upland, Nebraska; Anna Schachtler, 64, Upland Cemetery, Upland, Nebraska.

ALMA, 1 victim: Mrs. August Bohling.

FRANKLIN, 3 victims: Frank Greenleaf, 55, Franklin Cemetery; Robert Miller, 49, Franklin Cemetery; Will Watson, 66, Franklin Cemetery.

BURIED IN MT. HOPE CEMETERY, BEAVER CITY, 1 victim: Unknown woman, mid-40s.

SOUTH OF SUPERIOR, NEBRASKA, INTO KANSAS, 1 victim: Perry Wilson of Smith Center, Kansas.

CONCORDIA, KANSAS, 4 victims: No names available.

CLIFTON, KANSAS, 1 victim: Forrest Grooms.

CLAY CENTER, KANSAS, 3 victims: No names available.

JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI: By this time, on or about June 7, the high waters of the Republican had tired, but had combined with the crest waters of the Solomon, Blue, Kansas (Kaw) and Missouri Rivers: 1 victim, no name available.

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